There’s something about autumn in the south that makes me feel like sitting outside, drinking a good cup of coffee, and reflecting on life. Writing is a natural outflow of all that reflection, which is why I’m here today. It’s been a whirlwind last couple of years since I paid off our home to become 100% debt free, then quit my job and started my own consulting business only two months later. But some opportunities have presented themselves that I didn’t expect, which has made the journey even sweeter.
Being a small business owner has been everything I’ve expected. Hard, exciting, depressing, stretching, and awesome. My hours are flexible– almost too flexible. I’ve struggled with self-motivation much more than I expected I would. I usually don’t have a problem working hard, but on a slow day my mind tends to wander. Flexibility is great, if you can harness it!
So after about 9 months of pushing to pick up new clients and pack my schedule (and not really adding many) I changed tack, and bought a house instead. Last fall I stumbled across one of those “that’s too good to be true” kind of deals that my wife and I decided we wanted to pull the trigger on. It was in a much nicer neighborhood than we were currently living, and would cut my commute from 40 minutes to about 15. It would provide more room for our growing family and growing family responsibilities. But most importantly, it was CHEAP. It would be a lateral move, financially, from our current home to the new one, but a lot of time and manual labor (and some extra renovation funds) would be required to make it “livable”.
Well? Time was something I had… Manual labor is something I enjoy. And without any debt it was easy to secure renovation funds for the project.
I spent the next 4-6 months navigating the purchase, sale, renovation, and moving process, and often wondered if I was doing the right thing. “Out of the frying pan, into the fire”, I’ve heard it said. I kept scratching my head and thinking “am I really going through with this”? Going back into debt was not something I had planned on, especially just 12 months after paying off our wonderfully small house.
We have a long way to go in terms of renovation projects, but the house is very livable now. We’ve gone from 1300 square feet to 2500 and are actually paying less in utilities than our last house due to the new HVAC and windows that were installed.
With the new $90k loan we have to pay off it feels like we’ve taken a small step backwards, but the home/neighborhood value is so much higher that I’m OK with that for now. I was looking at my YNAB net worth report last week and in the last 24 months our family’s net worth has grown from $190k to $330k, mostly due to the increase in home value!
Business is still humming along and there are a few small prospects on the horizon, so it’s been a very successful year despite our “income” not increasing in the last 18 months.
One of the other awesome opportunities I’ve been blessed with this year is being able to do some focused stock trading. It’s through my SEP IRA account, so I won’t see those funds anytime soon, but having time to be patient and be comfortable with small gains has allowed me to grow my $80k 401k from my old job into a $135k IRA over just a 6 month period. That’s without contributing any of my own funds.
My plan is simple, and yet oh-so-rewarding. I’m not trying to “hit it big”, I’m more like a marathon runner. If I can make an average of 1% a week on my account with a trade or two, that translates into a $23,000,000 retirement account in just 10 years! That’s compound interest at its finest, folks. And if I accidentally make 4% in a week, I’m not going to apologize to anyone.
Is there a long way to go for that plush retirement plan? Sure. And I have a LOT to learn about technical trading, as I’ve already experienced a few setbacks. But having the time to spend on it has been really fun so far, and a 68% annual return is a great start! The other advantage is that I don’t feel the need to contribute income to my retirement account, as long as I can continue to make strides in growing it through trading.
So, as I reflect on the last year I see nothing but success. Perhaps not as much in “business” as I had hoped, but in moving forward, making the most of the opportunities I had, and seeing the fruits of my labor. And a steady growth of my IRA account may just be my best bet for achieving Financial Independence.
Time for another cup of coffee.